Friday, March 30, 2007

WARNING: This book contains frontal nudity, profanity & anti-war sentiment

This is the cover of a book my sixteen-year-old daughter checked out from her public high school library the other day. The title of the book is 2/15: The Day the World Said NO to War. It's a collection of photos of the global anti-war protests of February 15, 2003 that happened just before the invasion of Iraq. My daughter marched in one of the large anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C. during the run-up to the Iraq war and continues to have a keen interest in the anti-war movement, so she was very happy to find this book in her library.

I think it's wonderful that our public school's library has this book. It's certainly a much rowdier book than I can remember finding in my high school library. It shows pictures ranging from naked protesters in Antarctica to a granny proudly sporting a large "FUCK Your War" button. I think it's admirable our librarian purchased such a book for our very red-state school's library. I want to commend, encourage and support such efforts.

However, there was one thing about this book both my daughter and I found very disturbing.

On the bottom, left-hand corner of the front cover there is this label:

It says, "WARNING: This book contains frontal nudity, profanity & anti-war sentiment."

WTF?! One of these things is really, really not like the others. I'm alternately shocked, appalled, flabbergasted and bemused by this bizarre and jarring warning label. I can't quite believe such a thing really exists and, yet, there it is.

Although as a parent I would be fine with not having any warning labels ever, I'm not overly troubled by warnings about nudity and profanity. If that's the price for having these books available to students, then I would much rather have the books with the warnings attached, than not have the books at all. But anti-war sentiment is different. This is not something that needs a warning label. Ever. It is not something children need to be protected from. And it is not in any way, shape, or form analogous to nudity or profanity. Ideas are not something to protect school children from, and neither is peace.

I'm confident we'll be able to resolve this small, local conflict without any real acrimony. However, I am determined to resolve it. Anti-war sentiments are not going to be one of the things our children will be protected from, certainly not as long as our high school students remain unprotected from Army recruiters in their school.


  1. wow, what to say about this...actually the label makes a weird kind of sense if one looks at the world, as the ruling class would/does, through a certain anti-Marcusean ("Make love, not war!") lens- I almost think the label should stay on the book, and may be the most instructive way to open discussion about how The Sixties are being written out of history...

  2. So Bob, maybe that is why I am currently obsessed with the sixties ... it started (the obsession) when I
    realized that there were things I learned in elementary school (in the sixties) that people do not seem to know any more.

  3. Two interesting responses. However, I'm not sure I want to make this particular lesson into a history lesson about the sixties. I think I would prefer to make it about current events and about legitimizing and promoting resistance to the current war in every way we can.